By Wendy Rosenfield
FOR THE INQUIRER
There are plays about adolescence and plays for adolescents. Theatre Confetti’s inaugural production, A. Rey Pamatmat’s Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, aims high at adults, but its bull’s eye is a younger target audience.
Plenty of plays with kids as their subject make an easy transition to adulthood: Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive and Noah Haidle’s Mr. Marmalade are but two examples of adult works with children as their messengers. But despite what could, in certain circles, be considered “adult themes,” Pamatmat’s sincerity and the straightforward, episodic nature of his script keep Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them squarely within the realm of Hansel and Gretel-style child-fantasy fulfillment (that’s the Grimm edition, not this year's bounty-hunting witch-chasers).
Theatre Confetti (formerly Nice People Theatre Company) offers a high-quality young-adult production with an excellent cast of grownups convincingly playing much younger characters; sensitive direction by Aaron Cromie, unafraid to linger on an emotion; and set design by Lance Kniskern that allows the actors to scramble from scene to scene and from one end of the Power Plant’s basement to the other.
Virtually abandoned by their father after their mother’s death, Filipino-American siblings Edith (Bi Jean Ngo), 12, and Kenny (Justin Jain), 16, manage to approximate a home together, Kenny stretching their dad’s intermittent bank deposits, Edith serving as shotgun-toting sentry, both excelling in school. All the while, Kenny nurtures a budding love affair with Benji (Steve Pacek), a fellow student.
It’s worth noting that the kids’ challenges don’t stem from their own internalized racism or homophobia; there’s no self-loathing at work here. Their trouble is that the outside world fails to understand what the trio already know: They’re doing just fine.
And if Edith depended solely on its actors’ performances, we’d believe it all. Ngo sneezes and cries with her entire body in the unself-conscious way children do, and you can feel the gleam and heat coming off Jain and Pacek during their phone sessions, full of heavy-handed teenage innuendo and the joy of the new.
Pamatmat himself often falls victim to a heavy hand, with too many groaner lines such as, “Edith, we’re kids, just kids!” and “How can I take care of you when I can’t take care of myself?” But of course, if you’re a kid feeling the tug between dependence and independence for the first time, then it’s probably your first time hearing those lines as well.
Presented by Theatre Confetti at The Power Plant Basement, 233 N. Bread St., through March. 24. Tickets: $10-$35. Information: www.TheatreConfetti.com